Despite the amount of information available on weight management, new research from HealthFocus, St. Petersburg, FL, shows that a wide disconnect continues to hamper weight loss efforts. The study, titled “Actionable Solutions for Overweight Segments of the Population,” found that although the amount of information continues to reach mainstream consumers through traditional media, social networks and websites, 76% of consumers still admitted that they don’t know how to eat to lose weight. For instance, 68% of Americans said “drinking more water” is the step they are most likely to take when trying to lose weight. In contrast, only 20% of them followed any structured diet plan.
The study suggested that a better understanding of the obesity crisis lies in a different kind of understanding of the consumer. It also examined consumer emotional and lifestyle needs going well beyond diet and exercise, and focused on understanding how consumers differ from one another.
“New approaches to combatting obesity are essential, so we wanted to provide actionable information in this study,” said Barbara Katz, president of HealthFocus International. “This is especially important in light of recent estimates from the Duke University study putting obesity rates at 42% by 2030. One way to be more effective at addressing this issue might be to individualize the approach to weight management.”
Five different consumer segments were identified, each unique and different in their needs and their approaches to weight management:
“Active Maintainers” are mostly moderately overweight, in control and fairly consistent about taking steps to maintain their weight.
“Emotional Seekers” are very unsatisfied with their bodies, and emotion plays a huge part in weight loss for this group. They have a strong desire for change, and they are more willing to try different approaches.
“Practical Reducers” are also highly unsatisfied with how they look but they are more empowered.
“Health Driven” consumers usually have a high body mass index (BMI) and lots of health issues, which drives them to find solutions.
“Nonchalants” are just that—nonchalant about managing their weight. They often feel they are at the right weight already, or just need to lose a few pounds but they don’t feel they need to focus on their weight.
The study revealed interesting information about attitudes toward weight management as well. Seventy-six percent of the respondents in the study admitted that they simply love to eat. In fact, 37% blame the fact that they “love to eat and don’t want to give it up” as one reason why they can’t lose weight. Other key reasons cited for excess weight were lack of exercise and too much stress. One-third of consumers believe that they often deal with “overwhelming” stress levels.
The largest segment of consumers, comprising more than one-third of the population, is a “very emotional group.” More than half of this group claims to be “disgusted with themselves.” This level of disillusionment in the largest segment of the population suggests that for many, increasing knowledge is only part of the challenge, and the focus needs to shift to the psychological side of weight management.